Saint Abdullah & Eomac on Drowned By Locals

The Iranian-Canadian duo and Irish producer re-connect for an artistic response to the ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

It feels strange to be contemplating an album in response to horrific events unfolding in Palestine since October 7. Of course, the conflict did not begin when Hamas fighters breached the Gaza border wall and carried out their massacre in Israel, but the month-on-month escalation of brutality inflicted on the Gazan population feels so current and visceral, how would an artist have time to reflect, absorb and respond? In the case of Saint Abdullah and Eomac, the answer lies in an honest, impulsive response to the initial after-shock – a new album “recorded within a few weeks in October after the war broke out as we tried to keep our heads above water.”

Saint Abdullah foreground their Persian heritage in all their work, but they’ve always balanced it with a broader outlook that reflects their life experience, their perspective, and the reality of the wider world. The Iranian-Canadian brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh are nowadays based in New York but always connected to their roots in their music, through sampling, field recordings and aesthetics alike. Team IO first came across their work on Portland, Oregon label Boomarm Nation some 8 years ago, but they’ve since released a solid catalogue of mixtapes, EPs and albums on crucial labels like Room40, Purple Tape Pedigree and Important. Their partnership with celebrated Irish producer Ian McDonnell, aka Eomac, has proven to be especially productive, though, as witnessed on their prior collab albums Patience Of A Traitor and Chasing Stateless. Acerbic beats are matched with sharper shards of speech and coded sonics in a hard-edged, hyper-modern fusion which draws on the trio’s respective strengths and their broad cultural outlook. 

Now they arrive on maverick outpost Drowned By Locals, the Jordanian label which transcends its geography to surf virtual waves of creative deviance with kindred riders. Light meteors crashing around you will not confuse you adopts the stance of a hip-hop beat tape with a blown-out, distorted and disorienting quality. The record reflects on the Mehrabani-Yeganeh brothers’ outlook in their diasporic part of Iranian culture and their connection to what is unfolding in the here and now, and the inescapable history that came before it. As the press release explains, on ‘Rocknrallah’ an imagined figure from the Drowned By Locals folklore – Abdel Ja7eem Hafeth – sings a rendition of Jerome Kern and Otto A. Harbach’s 1933 American showtune ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ to evoke the smoke coming out of Gaza. You might have caught Hafeth in another guise elsewhere on the label.

The album also features fellow Iranian diasporic artists Cinna Peyghamy and Aria Rostami. It’s a visceral listen which sidesteps soapbox posturing to offer a more emotional, personal comment on these cursed times and their wider context. In the face of the relentless information and opinion grind of the internet’s machinations, this approach feels far more useful and compelling. 

The proceeds of the release will be donated towards UNRWA’s vital work in the Palestinian territories, which is more embattled than ever following dubious, evidence-light allegations and subsequent funding withdrawal. head to the Drowned By Locals Bandcamp page to buy the album, donate and find out more.  

To read more about events, releases and fundraising initiatives to support aid operations in Palestine, check our round-up article here.